Virginity – Beyond The Sexual

lyrica

I know my blog is about something very personal. Most of us wouldn’t discuss virginity in a Walmart checkout line or even in church. In this post, I want to talk about why it is not always about the sexual. Have you ever wondered why it was necessary for Mary, the mother of Christ, to be a virgin? Did Joseph choose her for his wife because she was the hottest girl in the village? No, God himself chose Mary. Was she a perfect woman? No. You can read the whole story in Luke 1. Pay particular attention to Mary’s response in verse 34 when the angel Gabriel told her she was going to have a miraculous birth: “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” In other words, she asked how she could possibly have a child when she hadn’t had sex with a man. “How shall this be” tells us she had no doubt the birth would occur, only how it would happen. Her faith was much higher than the average woman at the time, or at any time. I think that was one of the main reasons she was highly favored. Gabriel summed it up in v. 37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Sometimes it’s necessary to bypass the questions of how in order to reach a level of faith like Mary’s.

A seemingly ordinary young woman pulled off the impossible. She broke a cycle that had never been broken, as no one in the history of mankind had ever been born without a biological mother and biological father. So the origin of virginity, as spoken by Gabriel, had nothing to do with locker room graffiti or sexual gratification. It was necessary for the birth of Christ to prove to a skeptical world that he was the son of God as well as the Son of Man. Also notice that her response to Gabriel was not like Zacharias. She didn’t show any skepticism. She didn’t say, “Yeah, right Gabe, you go ahead and make that happen and I’ll still be here laughing tomorrow.” She didn’t ask for a sign – “If you could just make it rain for the next week, I might listen to you.” And did Mary get a big ego out of all this? Did she put on a new dress and crown herself as one who was “highly favored among women?” It was just the opposite. Her response could only come from the mother of Christ: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” She saw herself as a lowly servant and in no way sought to bring attention to herself. Couldn’t that serve as the definition of humbleness? As Herbert Lockyer said: “ Mary exhibited a true and genuine piety, as well as a profound humility—the accompaniment of holiness.” She was highly favored among women because she was following God’s will for her life, had a very unique beauty of character; and had the faith, disposition, and determination to carry out the mission of bringing Christ into the world. Even though she knew what pain and sorrow lay ahead of her, she calmly accepted her assignment, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” In order for Christ to come into the world as both a human and God, it was necessary for his conception to be miraculous and not involve the sperm of a mortal man. To do this, she had to be a virgin. And it had to remain an eternal mystery. Men have never been able to explain how a virgin could give birth and they still can’t explain it today. It takes faith to believe in the virgin birth of Christ. To discredit it is to reject Jesus himself. It is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth.

Does any of this associate virginity with sexual pleasure? No. It marks Mary as a faithful follower of Christ. And it associates Christ with his miraculous birth, one of such gravity that it changed the course of time. It takes time for a person to draw closer to Christ. And I think the longer a Christian lives without marriage and a sexual relationship, the more their virginity becomes about what is not sexual and remaining faithful to God. It becomes more about relating to those who Christ called “the least of these.” And virgins are among those people today. Since about my 30s, I’ve looked at virginity as one of the strongest equalizing forces in the universe – far surpassing gender, race, class, age, etc.  When talking to others who are waiting on marriage or have the gift of virginity, I don’t have to worry about what their expectations of me might be or how I compare with other men.  I don’t have to worry about comments like, “You better get a move on or time will pass you by.” I feel freer to be myself. You can’t put a price on that. When I talk to people, I don’t check ages and birth certificates first, like the world does. If I feel like talking to women much older or much younger than myself, I just let the world point and gossip. I don’t feel bad about giving them something to talk about. Not only is it an equalizing force, virginity can be so thoroughly melded into the fabric of our everyday lives that it becomes just another part of who we are. It is, after all, very natural. At some point, the question about who was out there that God wanted me to marry turned into: What else needs to be done? Who has been forgotten? Who can I help the most? What can I guard that is susceptible to being stolen? Feeling the need to guard something may in fact tie us to the role eunuchs played in Old Testament days when they guarded royal harems and jewels. For me, this does include guarding young people from the tragedy of teenage births and poverty; something that parents are responsible for, but many of them are not.

So, do you still think virginity is all about not having sex? Do you think it’s just something men look for in a wife? I hope not, because I can’t think of too many things more important in the history of mankind than following God’s will, being faithful, and having the self control to make wise decisions. How many women and men are highly favored by God today?

https://books.google.com/books?id=0YrW3bxxGAsC&pg=PA94&lpg=PA94&dq=%22mary+exhibited+a+true+and+genuine+piety%22&source=bl&ots=QEQLXFEJzG&sig=M-FXaMMN-izaVP_7WrLh24R3P0I&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjylqXuzv7NAhWIHR4KHUmJBd4Q6AEIJDAB#v=onepage&q=%22mary%20exhibited%20a%20true%20and%20genuine%20piety%22&f=false

Eunuchs For The Kingdom Define Marriage For The World

feast-of-the-tabernacle-yvette-co

Feast Of The Tabernacle by Yvette Co

After the Pharisees had asked Jesus about divorce and remarriage and after he reinforced the permanency of marriage in Matthew 19, note who was the most dismayed. It was the disciples. “If we can’t get rid of our wives when we want to, then it would be better for us not to marry! We will stay single for the rest of our lives!” The very men who knew Jesus best and were on the front lines of the new Christianity were now joining the Pharisees in defense of divorce. Why? The reason is because it allowed them to continue to have sex without commitment. It allowed them to continue to make a mockery of marriage. This should tell us something about what marriage had become in 1st century society. And really, if they had such a shallow view of marriage, their lifestyles between marriages probably weren’t much better. They could pretend to be married for a while and then pretend to be single for a while, and on and on. If their wives got old and cranky, they could divorce them. If their wives burned the biscuits, they could divorce them. If their wives got sick, they could divorce them. They could divorce them and find a hot young babe to meet their sexual needs. Does that sound familiar? It should, because we’re in the same boat today. And we’re still asking the same questions. Consider what Tim Rymel, a man who identified himself as an “Exodus Casualty,” wrote in The Baptist Standard in August of 2014:

“How would heterosexuals feel about being told celibacy is their only option? They could never marry, never have families and never experience the love, joy and intimacy of being with the loves of their lives?”

How would Christ respond to those questions? The same way he responded to the disciples: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Who does that leave to be married? It leaves only those who were not chosen to be single. Christ didn’t say, “all men can’t be married, only those I have chosen. Instead, he bases his definition of marriage on the third type of eunuch he described, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. That does not include homosexuals. It can’t because the definition of a eunuch has nothing to do with sexual orientation, only reproduction. Actually, there’s no such thing as sexual orientation. That’s a figment of modern man’s imagination. On top of that, homosexuals can’t reproduce – biologically or spiritually. I think the reason Christ may have chosen the metaphor of the eunuch is because reproduction could be confirmed visually through pregnancy and children. And the visual of pregnancy serves as a direct link to the sexual relationship that is needed for reproduction. Hence, the eunuch for the kingdom points to the gift aspect of celibacy and self control. If becoming a eunuch for the kingdom of God cut off sexual desire, then what did Christ mean in verse 12 when he said “made themselves eunuchs?” He’s certainly not talking about a man taking a knife to himself. Made themselves eunuchs here is the equivalent of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:37: ” Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.” A eunuch for the kingdom can still have sexual desire and intercourse. That’s the will he has power over. Otherwise, why would the disciples have bitterly complained about marriage and its permanency? Only the third type of eunuch addresses a man’s will.

There are several instances of a series of three in the Bible with the emphasis on the third, such as Peter denying Christ three times and then the rooster crowing. In the same manner, Christ uses the first and second eunuch to build up to the third type, the main focus of verse 12. This is so because the disciples have a choice, and this is the only option that has a choice. They were not born with genetic abnormalities and they were not castrated, or at least we have no record of that. But they did have a choice about remaining celibate for the kingdom of heaven. It’s also interesting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the third and last feast commanded by the Lord, the Israelite men lived in small huts outside their houses. Living in these small huts reminded them that mortality is not the final resting place for mankind. Likewise, choosing to be a eunuch today for the kingdom of heaven, the third eunuch described, reminds us that our mortality is not the final resting place for mankind.

So Christ actually used the eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven to connect sex back to marriage and to reinforce the permanency of the commitment. At the same time, he gave a new definition and identity to those who choose not to marry or have sexual relations and reinforced the permanency of that commitment.

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/texas-baptist-forum/16827-letters-celibacy-a-personal-decision

http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Papers/John7-9.5.html

The Procreation Of Eunuchs

trumpet flower pod2-web2

Trumpet Creeper seed pod by John Morgan

Do you remember the game Chinese Whispers? This is the one where a group of people sit in a circle and a message is whispered to one person, who must whisper it to the next person. It continues around the circle until the last person receives the message. Then this person stands up and calls out the message as he received it. The whole point of it is to see if the original message survives the round trip or if it is corrupted. When I played the game growing up, the message that the last person called out was usually totally different from the original. Sometimes it was so funny that people were rolling around on the floor laughing. For instance, “I hope that John gets better” could end up as “nope, that’s a dear John letter.”

The same thing sort of happened with the definition of the word eunuch. It was passed from ear to ear in Old Testament times and always came out the same – a male who was castrated. Eunuchs were traditionally associated with castration, no sexual feelings, no seeds, no children, no heirs, and no witnesses. They were also traditionally known as bed keepers, especially in royal palaces. They were entrusted with guarding the virtue of future kings and queens. But then Jesus came along and took a seat at Chinese Whispers. With one whisper (Matthew 19:12) the traditional job description of a eunuch was immediately transformed into a role for the sake of the kingdom of God. This amounted to the most dramatic revision of a word in the history of mankind. The castrated eunuchs with dry seeds who had been despised on earth were suddenly given an eternal role for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. The metaphor goes deeper than that though. Can you think of a eunuch who was actually despised on earth and given a special role in heaven? Could Jesus also be talking about himself? I think so. A eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake goes much deeper than someone who does not marry. He’s light years from being single. The person actually forfeits the right to marry and have children and makes that decision known publically. He renounces earthly matters and embraces heavenly matters. Another thing that changed with Matthew 19:12 is that eunuchs now included women. Can you see the faces of the Pharisees twisting in confusion? “Excuse me, but how do you castrate a woman.” I think we should take it for granted that Jesus is always at least one step ahead of us. Another reason this is such a drastic change is because of the importance that Jewish society placed on offspring and covenantal blessings. Jesus is actually saying that fruit can now multiply without seeds and that spiritual children are now more important than physical children. This is what tore the veil between the holy place and the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple and allowed everyone, including eunuchs, to enter.

The eunuch metaphor goes still deeper than that. If Jesus was just talking about people who didn’t want to get married or have kids, he could have just used the term “unmarried,” or what we refer to as single. But eunuchs could not have sex. Little did they know that there would be people ahead of them who did not want to have sex. So Jesus was also talking about renouncing sexual relations and abstinence. He is talking about dying a virgin. What a jolting thought for our culture today. Do you think a teenager today would consider that “the bomb?” Just as the ancient eunuchs guarded the royal bedchambers and depended upon the king for their very existence, eunuchs today point to eternity in heaven and dependence upon the king of kings for everything they need to live. Only eunuchs are able to keep in check the ever-growing idolatry of marriage and family. They were not only valued in ancient times because they posed no sexual threat. They were valued because they had no babies and no heirs. They posed no threat to kings because they had no line of succession. Eunuchs are still giving birth to spiritual children and guarding heavenly fortunes today. Is it time you updated your dictionary?

Eunuchs – What’s In A Name?

man-walking-through-the-desert

I had some very colorful people in my family growing up. One was my Aunt Sudie. She had a different taste in books, food, furniture, and especially music. I always thought of her as more . . . refined, cultured, even more civilized. When I went to visit her, I could always here the soft background music of Birmingham’s only easy listening radio station, WQEN. Everything was slowed down in her house. Well, everything, but intellect. She was a thinking lady. Every response was measured. And even her clothes always seemed to match. I remember playing dominoes and chess with her on Sunday afternoons. You can guess how that went. My taste in music back in the 1980s leaned toward the Bee Gees, Boston, and Bob Dylan. One afternoon on top 40 WERC, I heard that our easy listening station was switching over to country format. I thought “poor Aunt Sudie.” The next time I saw her, it didn’t take long for her to bring up the subject. “How about that? Now I’ve got to choose between being a rock and roller or a honkytonk red neck.” I sympathized with her . . . a little. While I wasn’t an easy listening fan, I didn’t like the idea of someone being forced to listen to music they didn’t like.

Replaying that scene in my mind lately has given me pause because . . . I felt like I was being forced to choose between two things I don’t want – the virginity of bubble-gum popping teenage girls or the celibacy of black-robed Gregorian-chanting bread-making Benedictine monks. I wrestled a bit with that over the years. Who did I identify with? I knew no one who had chosen this life. In the Protestant world, there’s not much to identify with if you’ve chosen a life of celibacy, other than a cold pew in the back of a church. I know what their congregations think of single men. I won’t go there. Actually I identify with refugees, hostages, people with no identity, and others displaced from war-torn areas of the world. I relate to the people of Israel. But I know my real identity is in Christ alone. As Galatians 2:20 tells me:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

It’s interesting that the word “crucified” in this verse is in the perfect tense. The crucifixion was in fact a past action that has present results. Like Paul, I have died to all the expectations and assumptions surrounding a single man in the 21st century. Or I should say, it’s an ongoing process. All Christians are called to do this. But I think people who have chosen celibate life more fully embody that reality. We are more dependent on Christ every day of our lives. So even though a social identity may be a natural part of the human equation, it’s something we have to die to, much more so that any other segment of the population. When you get down to it, we don’t live natural lives. Those of us called to celibacy live supernatural lives. I’m sure Paul went through an identity crisis. Living a life as Saul, he had the responsibility of living in obedience to Mosaic Law. But instead of trying to find acceptance with God through following a set of rules, the person of Paul was now living by a new set of principles based on the Holy Spirit living inside of him. Just as it was the rules Paul had to cast aside, we oftentimes have to cast aside our very own language, our very own social identities. Because in a very real sense we are living outside our time zone. The world sees clocks on a wall and the oscillations of a cesium beam in the form of an atomic clock. We see an ocean of infinity that doesn’t need time. The world sees children holding hands with mom and dad. We see spiritual children in the future that can’t even be counted. We have even chosen to cast aside family and children. But remember that the Bible tells us we will not be forgotten. Isaiah 56:4-5:

4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

When I have an identity crisis, these are my go to verses. So I don’t like the sound of virgin? It doesn’t matter. I don’t like the sound of celibate? It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be a monk? It doesn’t matter. One day I will have an “everlasting name.” I understand that to mean only eunuchs will have an everlasting name. Not moms. Not dads. Not preachers. Not teachers. Only eunuchs. I have no idea what that everlasting name may be. When I’m watching all the other parents pamper their children in church and I’m feeling rather childless, I remind myself that I will have an everlasting name. When the church throws a Christmas party and invites all the families but does not invite me, I remind myself that I will have an everlasting name. When I’m trying to think of people to include in my will, I remind myself I will have an everlasting name – and that my children in the future will get more than that. I don’t look at it as a consolation prize. It’s a biblical promise. All I can do now is savor the mystery.

Celibacy – The Commitment You Never See

bird in hat

Once in a while after reading something I will say to myself “you mean people really believe that?” I found myself saying that after reading “Five Questions With Author Andy Crouch” on Boundless. You can read it here: http://www.boundless.org/blog/five-questions-with-bestselling-author-andy-crouch/. Thanks goes to Julia Duin for forwarding it to me. After giving a rather vague answer to the question of gay marriage, he was asked question #2. This is the one I want to focus on:

2. “Unwanted singleness among Christian women is becoming more and more normal in the church. Based on your journalistic work in the church, you have a 10,000-foot view that most of us don’t enjoy. Do you see any way for us to turn this ship around and rescue a generation of families that we are losing as young men wait indefinitely to get married?”

Unwanted singleness? When did a spouse become a religious right? God never promised marriage to anybody. Note the other assumptions built into the question; that all singleness must be unwanted, that singleness is not normal, that to remain single is to head in the wrong direction, that propagating more families is more important than propagating children of God, that waiting indefinitely to get married is to lose out. And to top it all off, the person who asked the question believes that someone with a history of “journalistic work” is the most qualified to talk about marriage and celibacy. Brilliant.

Oh, and I should probably mention that Andy Crouch is a 47 year old married man who had his ship rescued by marriage years ago. So that makes him uniquely qualified to answer questions about celibacy, doesn’t it? After I read the question posed to him, I started searching my Bible for the chapter and verses that dealt with “unwanted singleness among single women.” Well, after some searching, I found it in the book of Bathsheba, chapter 13, verses 27-29:

“Now, all those women suffering with unwanted singleness, they have a right to claim a man for themselves. The nuclear family must be exalted above everything else. They cannot be allowed to suffer the pain of watching other married women parade around with children in tow. They cannot let their fertile years slip them by. If lazy men don’t want to marry, they must be forced to pay extra taxes and shunned from society – because these are beautiful irresistible women. I, Bathsheba, veto everything Apostle Paul says about singleness in his letter to the Corinthians.”

This is what happens when God’s commandments are tossed out the door and replaced with our wants and perversions. A woman wants a husband? We can’t let her wait. Get her a husband now! Diagnosis: Unwanted singleness. How excruciating. Is it any more painful than what Christ did on the cross? It’s less than a mosquito bite on the back of an elephant. We cannot take the broad stroke of cultural norms and demographic data and try to overlay that on top of God’s word. Marriage is not the answer to fornication. Self control is. Even more predictable was his advice for women dealing with “unwanted singleness.” First, he said single men are lost and need “evangelism and discipleship.” This fits in with current Protestant theology that says the only way to salvation is through marriage. It’s actually in the SBC’s Faith and Message Statement. Then he offered this scathing condemnation of single men:

“The key to changing the current patterns is to unapologetically call men to greater risk and sacrifice, including what is in many ways the greatest risk and sacrifice a man can make, binding oneself to one woman in marriage.”

Yes, let’s raise that golden sex calf higher on the altar. So he thinks single men are not sacrificing? Well, in his view, as so many other church leaders, the greatest sacrifice a man can make is not to God. It’s to a woman. In this day and time, God takes second place to self-pleasure. That’s because Crouch doesn’t include celibacy with his definition of a single man. His definition of singleness depends on one thing – the absence of a marriage license. A single man to him is just a guy who is jumping from bed to bed every night with different women. He’s the guy who doesn’t have a ring on his finger. He’s the guy who has been lucky so far and not gotten a girl pregnant. He’s the guy who likes to party and waste his time on cheap entertainment. He’s the guy not committed to anything. He’s the guy who is concerned about no one but himself. He’s the guy who has no responsibility. He’s the guy who we can’t let pastor a church. This stereotype of the single man is why I don’t like to use the word “single” to describe myself. Then Crouch does something that is so predictable for these marriage-mandate articles – he offers an exemption clause:

“Frankly, given the disparities of available men and women in the church, I don’t think many men should question whether they have a “calling” to singleness or to marriage — I think that barring clear guidance otherwise from God and your community, you should assume that you are called to marriage and fatherhood and proceed as quickly as possible in that direction. And for God’s sake, stop playing video games. Spend that time getting to know a real woman instead.”

Note that he disparagingly put “calling” in quotes, like it’s something that just can’t be in the Bible. And note how the assumes all single men are dealing with prostitutes, telling them to get to know a “real woman.” Forget Christ’s affirmation of the Eunuchs. Forget about the possibility of following Paul and remaining unmarried. It’s all about my daughter who wants to get married. It’s all about more single women than men. It’s all about having your piece of the pie. It’s all about family pride, family estates, family money, family jewels . . . family inheritances. It’s all about getting what you want. For those irresponsible singles – let’s throw them a bone. Then he chimes in with the “barring clear guidance from God” exception clause. Tossing out one-liners like this doesn’t work for several reasons. First, you would have missed it if you sneezed. Second, the Bible tells us that both marriage and celibacy are equally important and valid. Equal means they each get the same validation and affirmation – 50/50. As with most articles dealing with the subject, this one gives marriage 99% coverage and celibacy about 1% coverage. Like it or not, we live in a world where the value of anything is determined in large part by the amount of time and energy talking about it. This is particularly true in the age of the internet. How much validity does homosexuality have in the Bible? Zero percent. How much validity does it have in the media? One hundred percent. Then turn things around. How much validity do eunuchs have in the Bible? One hundred percent. How much validity do eunuchs have in the media? Zero percent. What was right has become wrong and what was wrong has become right.

If you want to know why, Crouch’s article is an example of why – It’s because the church has become part of the world. They’re indistinguishable. Their talking heads are not qualified to write a second grade essay on turtles. The main reason marriage-mandaters should sit down and be quite is that there are young people listening to and reading such babble who do not know what the Bible says about marriage and celibacy. Such false teaching could lead them down the wrong road. There have been many young men who chose the homosexual lifestyle because they did not fit in with family idolatry society and churches. Discussing marriage in a religious context and not including an equally weighted discussion on celibacy is only telling half the story of Christianity. In my opinion, this goes beyond lying and almost enters the realm of blasphemy. It’s malpractice.

Telling all single men they should marry unless they have a direct message from God or their community is sort of like saying: “Unless you have had a visit from the Angel Gabriel who told you to enter a monastery and you got a followup visit from the pope, you should get married as soon as possible.” I wonder how many guys read this and thought, “Oh gee, I haven’t heard a message from God! I need to get on the stick and start making some phone calls! Got to find that wife!” Not too many. I wonder how many men in churches have had guidance when he comes to discerning the call to celibacy? How many Protestant churches actually have older adults called to celibacy counseling young people in this regard?

Paul’s marriage exception clause has been in the Bible for over 2000 years. In contrast to the marriage-mandaters, he actually said single people would do best if they remained as they are and not look for spouses. More importantly, he spent more time talking about celibacy than he did marriage. All these marriage-mandaters accomplish is alienate younger unmarried men from the church and throw more suspicion on the older unmarried men, especially those who have been called by God to celibacy. And of course they help to bolster women as the moral authorities in the church. I guess they will have to revise their teachings 50 years from now when there are more single men that women.

The protestant churches are set up so that the identities of men and women called to celibacy are not known. It’s part of their ongoing protest against the Catholic Church. Plus, it keeps any questions about their marriages at bay. Paul did not define the celibate gift as waiting indefinitely. He defined it as focused on the kingdom of heaven and God’s concerns and as a positive response to God. So even though you may never know us or know what we do, we are still here. We are just as committed to the affairs of God as married people are to their husbands and wives. And we have direct communication with God every day.